Thursday, July 7, 2016

Artificial streams in the middle of the Mara

We set up our first artificial stream experiment in 2014, using a portable artificial stream array we built in Kenya. It was so exciting to be able to conduct rigorous experiments in the field, with controls and replication, which is usually quite difficult to do at the ecosystem scale at which we normally work. In 2014, we set up the stream array at the Mara River Water User's Association in Mulot, which is a grassroots water resource management group. Working there was a great way to stay in touch with local stakeholders in the basin and involve them in our research, and they had electricity and a water pump and holding tank that made running the streams fairly easy.

We were excited to use the artificial streams again this year, but we were hoping to stay closer to our camp, which is in the middle of the Mara Conservancy. We also planned to expand our stream array to 18 streams. But how could we get 18 streams full of water and running continuously at a remote field camp with no electricity or running water? Ah, a logistics challenge is hard for us to resist!

The first step, which is often the case, was to consult Brian Heath, CEO of the Mara Conservancy. In addition to managing the Mara Triangle, Brian is  a consummate naturalist, logistics expert, and supportive friend, whose advice and guidance has been critical to our success more times than I can count. Brian generously offered to let us use a vacant concrete pad located near the Conservancy headquarters, and we had a good start. The manager from the nearby Mara Serena lodge graciously allowed us to use their electricity for the experiment. Now, all we needed was water.

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